THE EAGLE OWL
The eagle owl is the largest and most powerful owl in Europe. It can grow to a height of about 27 inches and has a wingspan of 63–74 inches however the largest specimens can attain a wingspan of up to 79 in. It has a large beak and enormous talons but its most noticeable features are the striking orange eyes. It has prominent ear tufts, which are raised or lowered depending on its mood. The plumage is mostly mottled but with bolder streaks on the breast.
Rocky landscapes are often favoured, but having an adequate food supply and nesting sites seem to be the most important prerequisites.
The eagle owl will eat almost anything that moves - from beetles to deer fawns. The major part of their diet consists of mammals, but surprisingly, birds of all species are also taken, including birds of prey and that means other owls. Their prey can also encompass snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and crabs.
According to a study by the British Ornithologists Union, the contentious European eagle owl has begun to breed in the wild in the United Kingdom. Bigger than all other British birds of prey - except for the golden and the white-tailed eagle - it is considered to be the largest owl in existence. Unfortunately this also means that it comes in at twice the size of our largest native owl species - the tawny owl and the barn owl.
Although a truly impressive creature, the fact remains that they are not native to this country even though they are widespread across most of northern Europe. However some experts believe that that they had bred naturally in Britain before the "land bridge" between Britain and the continent disappeared about 9,000 years ago when sea levels rose after the end of the last ice age.
According to a review of the eagle owl's status for the British Birds journal, the first sign of their emergence came in 1993 when a nest was found in the Peak District.
With a 6ft wingspan, and a body length of nearly 2 ½ ft , the Eagle owl is quite capable of bring down prey as large as our native heron or even as big as roe deer. The problem is that as a top predator it has the opportunity and ability to eat from a wide range of prey. With many of our native species entering the endangered list, the question that is causing the greatest concern is what are these new predators likely to choose as their staple food source?
Nobody knows if the current small group of eagle owls breeding in Britain are likely to maintain a self-sustaining population. Current thinking believes that it is unlikely unless the existing population is boosted with further escapes from captivity.
Currently, the eagle owl is listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act which prohibits the introduction into the wild of any animal which does not normally live or visit Britain. Anyone caught doing so can face up to two years in jail and a £5,000 fine.
For more information click onto:
EUROPEAN ROBIN - Erithacus rubecula
THE EAGLE OWL
THE GOLDEN EAGLE
THE SNOWY OWL
THE VERMILLION FLYCATCHER - Pyrocephalus rubinus
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST EAGLE?